The Madras High Court has said it is not only the duty of the native states of migrant workers but also the duty of the states where they work to take care of them, but this was not the case.
The court, while observing that the migrant workers and agricultural workforce are a neglected lot in the COVID-19 crisis, asked the Central and state governments to file a report on such workers by May 22.
The bench observed though the governments have taken care of every section of the society to the maximum extent possible, the guest workers and agricultural workforce were neglected. This was evident from the reports of the print and visual media in the past one month.
While referring to the sufferings of the migrant workers, the court said “One cannot control his/her tears after seeing the pathetic condition of migrant labourers shown in the media for the past one month. It is nothing but a human tragedy….”
A Division Bench of Justice N. Kirubakaran and Justice R. Hemalatha made these observations while passing an interim order on a habeas corpus petition from advocate Suryaprakasam seeking a direction to produce Ilayaraja and 400 others who have allegedly been illegally detained by the Superintendent of Police, Sangli district, Maharashtra.
“Most of the workers lost their jobs, no shelter is said to have been provided apart from lack of supply of adequate food. After waiting for long, they started migrating to their native states by foot with their children carrying all the belongings and surviving on food provided by good Samaritans. As if these were not enough, there were reports of starvation deaths”, the bench said while referring to the death of 16 workers caused by a train when they were sleeping on the tracks.
The bench then directed the Central and state governments to file a detailed report by May 22 as to whether any data on such guest workers is being maintained, if so, what is the number of migrant workers in each state/union territory, and whether assistance was provided to those migrant workers.
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